Sleep Deprivation at Work and How to Prevent It

sleep deprivation effects

Getting enough, good quality sleep is as essential to our health and well-being as a balanced diet and exercise. Yet approximately 1 in 3 of us are not getting enough at the quality we need. 

When we don’t get enough quality sleep, this is known as sleep deprivation, and it can lead to several short and long term effects that can negatively impact our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. 

In today’s world there are many factors that can contribute to sleep deprivation such as   lifestyle choices, medical conditions, work demands, stress, or sleep disorders. (the references can be linked to the words)

Just a few nights of sleep deprivation can cause short term impacts such as increased stress levels and mood disturbances, cognitive impairment, reduced performance and productivity and a decline in motor skills such as reaction time and coordination. 

Over the longer term, regular sleep deprivation results in a ‘sleep debt’. This is the difference between the sleep our body ideally requires and the sleep it actually gets. This can result in a number of long term impacts. These include a higher risk of developing diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and mental health disorders, increased risk of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and becoming more prone to a decline in interpersonal relationships. 

In addition to the negative impacts sleep deprivation has on physical and mental wellbeing, social relationships, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. It also impacts performance in the workplace, putting the affected individual and those around them at risk in the workplace.


The effects of sleep deprivation in the workplace

Sleep deprivation has significant negative impacts on the affected employee, their coworkers and the overall safety and productivity of an organisation, such as4:

1. Workplace accidents and injuries

An increase in workplace accidents and injuries is one of the most prominent issues caused by sleep deprivation. Studies have linked lack of sleep with impairing cognitive function, motor performance and reaction time, meaning those affected are less alert, slower to react and are therefore more prone to making mistakes that could result in serious accidents and injuries. 

2. Reduced productivity and performance

Employees who suffer from sleep deprivation often face a reduction in productivity and performance, meaning they take longer to complete tasks, are prone to making errors and struggle to solve simple issues. 

3. Reduced creativity

Getting enough sleep is essential for cognitive performance, including the areas of the brain that foster creativity. A lack of sleep inhibits creative thinking and problem-solving, resulting in a decline in performance and an employee’s ability to overcome issues and lean into innovative ways of thinking.

4. Lower morale

The tiredness and stress that comes with sleep deprivation often lead to reduced morale and lower job satisfaction among employees. This, in turn, can result in higher turnover rates and increased recruitment and retention costs for employers. 

5. Increased absenteeism

Employees who suffer from sleep deprivation are more likely to take sick days to catch up on sleep or recover from the short and long term health impacts that come with a lack of sleep. This not only puts a strain on other team members due to an increased workload but also has negative financial and productivity repercussions for the business.

6. Increased healthcare costs

Long term sleep deprivation is associated with numerous health issues, such as diabetes, obesity, mental wellbeing and cardiovascular health. With the health and wellbeing of employees’ a workplace priority, this can result in higher healthcare costs for employers.


Tips to prevent sleep deprivation

The optimal amount of sleep for an adult is 7–8 hours, however, it is the quality of sleep that is more important than the quantity. Quality sleep is referred to as sleep that is restorative, uninterrupted, and meets the ideal depth and efficiency of various sleep cycles throughout the night. Tips to achieve quality sleep and therefore reduce the risk of sleep deprivation include:

1. Develop a regular sleep schedule

A regular and consistent sleep schedule means going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, on both weekdays and weekends. This helps to regulate the internal body clock and enhances the quality of sleep each night.

2. Create a sleep friendly environment

The bedroom should be reserved for sleeping and other relaxing activities such as reading and meditation. A good quality mattress, pillows, and bedding and a cool yet comfortable bedroom temperature all help to create a sleep friendly environment.

3. Avoid stimulants and screens before bedtime

Avoid consuming caffeine and other stimulants before bedtime, and ideally in the afternoon and evening too, as they inhibit the ability to fall asleep. It is also recommended that exposure to phone, TV, laptop, and tablet screens that emit blue light is limited as they interfere with the sleep hormone and the body’s internal circadian rhythm. Switching off technology an hour before bedtime or using blue light blocking glasses are both methods of achieving a better quality sleep. 

4. Get regular exercise 

Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day can help to foster better quality sleep and make falling asleep easier. However, it avoids vigorous physical activity within three hours of bedtime. 


When it comes to sleep, everyone’s needs are different and the methods in which to achieve the best quality sleep vary from person to person. Developing healthy sleep habits and prioritising sleep is an essential part of reducing the detrimental sleep deprivation effects, reaching overall optimal health and improving performance and productivity in and outside the workplace.